Legislation in South Carolina that would prohibit the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in K–12 classrooms was approved by the state’s House of Representatives on April 21.
House Bill 5183, or the South Carolina Transparency and Integrity in Education Act, seeks to prevent “ideological and viewpoint biases” from being presented as fact instead of theory while maintaining “complete histories of South Carolina and the United States.”
The proposal was introduced by the Education and Public Works Committee in March and was approved after second reading in the House on a 73–40 mostly party-line vote. The measure would give parents and students a voice in raising objections to material that they believe has been presented in a biased manner.
The bill prohibits teachings that are discriminatory and bars any teaching that claims one “race, sex, ethnicity, color, or national origin” is inherently superior or more privileged than another.
Any teachings that base one’s moral character on the above characteristics, or teachings that place the responsibility for actions committed in the past on the shoulders of the students and teachers of a particular race or sex, will also be eliminated from the public-school curriculum under this bill.
Teaching that the United States was founded for the purpose of oppression and that the American Revolution was fought for the purpose of protecting oppression—as has been proposed by leading CRT theorists—would also be prohibited in the classroom, although the “impartial discussion of controversial aspects of history” in accordance with South Carolina state standards and regulations is allowed.
CRT is a Marxist philosophy that claims society can only be explained by the theory of class struggle between oppressors and the oppressed—specifically labeling white people as the oppressors and all other races as the oppressed. For many teachers and parents, the phrase has come to encompass a more expansive trend that incorporates not only issues of race but also themes of sexuality.
The bill also addresses what proponents have referred to as pornography found in school libraries by mandating only “age-appropriate” print and digital content.
In November 2021, Gov. Henry McMaster called for an investigation after reports of the graphic novel “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe surfaced in the Fort Mill School District.
The book contains explicit images of sexual acts between minors, with one identifying as transgender.
The South Carolina legislative effort follows other bills that prohibit gender or sexual diversity training or counseling for minors in public schools, such as that in Florida, which, in addition to giving parents more of a say in their children’s education, also bans the teaching of complex sexual issues.
During several hours in which Democrats presented amendments to the proposal, Rep. John King, a Democrat, said on the House floor that the bill will “destroy public education,” citing a potential rise in complaints from students alleging they have an issue with what they’re being taught.
Proponents of the legislation, however, say there’s a complaint process outlined in the bill that students and teachers can follow if they feel that instruction is being presented with bias.
King echoed what many Democrats have alleged, stating that the bill would erase history—specifically the history of mistreatment of African Americans.
Rep. Jermaine Johnson, also a Democrat, said on the House floor that CRT isn’t what is being discussed in the House bill because it’s not being taught in K–12 schools, only in universities and law schools.
“So this is more about censorship, and I think we need to make sure that we identify what we’re talking about appropriately when we’re talking about censorship,” he said.
Rep. Rita Allison, a Republican and the chair of the House Education and Public Works Committee, said the bill doesn’t erase black history, and emphasized that the bill “specifically provides that schools can teach the history of ethnic groups as described in our state standards already.”